INSIDE: Seven days of TV viewing
MEDIA maven Ita Buttrose was brought back into the spotlight this year thanks to hit television drama Paper Giants:
The Birth of Cleo.
Now Buttrose is happily taking centre stage as the subject of a two-part
Australian Story on the ABC. In the documentary, titled Ita Tells Me So, Buttrose is at her candid and intriguing best as she tells of her days at the heart of publishing from working alongside Kerry Packer, her close friendship with the media mogul, her tough management style, and seeing members of her family under the media’s glare. It’s pure Buttrose – forthright, humorous, opinionated, warm and candid.
And Buttrose couldn’t be happier.
Asked what it’s like to be back in the spotlight, she offers a hearty: ‘‘ Wonderful. I
don’t think I’ve
ever been as busy. I think I’ve been rediscovered. And it’s funny in a way because I haven’t been anywhere.’’
Producers of the show say Buttrose was fearless as the documentary came together, and they quickly realised they had way too much to edit into a single episode.
The result is frank observations of Buttrose’s life, extending far beyond the slice which was covered in
On leaving Packer’s employment, Buttrose is typically succinct.
‘‘ Of course he was going to go ballistic. I knew that,’’ Buttrose says.
She says the Australian Story audience may be surprised by some of the insights into Packer.
‘‘ I always admired Kerry’s entrepreneurship. We shared some great successes. We built Cleo from nothing,’’ she says.
‘‘ Remember his father, Sir Frank [ Packer], didn’t think Cleo would work. He sent me that extraordinary telegram: ‘ Good luck with this venture, I think you’ll need it’.
‘‘ Research said Cleo would fail. If it had failed I reckon Sir Frank would have sent Kerry and me a concrete overcoat and had us dropped in the harbour.
‘‘ I’ve always been glad I started my career at a company that encouraged women to aim for the top.
‘‘ Kerry used to tell me that he had grown up seeing women running
The Australian Women’s Weekly, then the flagship of the Packer empire, and a mighty cash cow.
‘‘ It never occurred to him to think that women weren’t talented and competent.’’
His enlightened thinking will probably come as something of a surprise to
Australian Story’s audience. Buttrose says part of her success came from always putting her hand up.
‘‘ At 23, I became women’s editor of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday
Telegraph women’s pages,’’ she says in the documentary.
‘‘ Some of the staff quit. They thought I was too young.
‘‘ I suppose when you think about it, it was quite presumptuous of me to write to Sir Frank and say I want this job.’’
Producers of the show got the sense that this is the last word from the irrepressible Buttrose, now nearing her 70th year, as she sets the record straight on a range of issues and experiences.
Buttrose says she has always been frank ‘‘ so I am not sure how I could be any franker than I was in the past’’.
For Paper Giants, the show that reignited interest in her, Buttrose has the highest praise.
‘‘ It captured beautifully the extraordinary changes that were taking place in Australia in the ’ 70s,’’ she says.
Her highest praise is for Asher Keddie, the actor who played Buttrose in Paper Giants to critical acclaim.
‘‘ When Asher spoke I thought ‘ I know that voice’,’’ Buttrose says. ‘‘ She captured my walk and my gestures.
‘‘ Not sure about her lisping though. It was good but I don’t think I lisped – or still lisp – quite that much. Maybe I did.
‘‘ One thing I do know, I have never been ashamed of the way I speak.’’